By Tamas Mondovics

Hosting one of the toughest fields in the region, Durant welcomed 32 schools from Florida and Georgia earlier this month to the 17th annual Cougar Invitational wrestling tournament.

Held off-campus for the past three years in Plant City, the event featured a number of local teams, including Freedom, Hillsborough, King, Robinson, Steinbrenner, Strawberry Crest and Tampa Prep.

The roster also featured several top teams from the region such as Collins Hill and Camden County, as well as South Dade, Springstead, Lake Gibson and Lake Highland, all bringing their season’s best wrestlers to the prestigious tourney.

At the end, Kissimmee Osceola walked away as tournament champs with 258 points winning the 106-, 145-, 160-, 182 and 195-pound weight classes, followed Georgia’s Camden County with 197.5.

While hoping for a better number, Durant head coach, Drake Millard, was pleased with his boy’s 13th place 92-point finish ahead of their fellow Hillsborough County programs.

Cougars Austin Haley finished third at 126, by defeating Palm Harbor’s Mike May, while Darrien Kelly finished in fourth in the 132-pound weight class, with Matthew Millard finished sixth at 160.

“It was a tough competition, but we have finished just behind some very strong and successful programs,” Millard said during a brief interview just moments prior to the start of a six-way home event a week later. “Finishing as the top Hillsborough County school was an important step and a confidence builder for all of us.”

With 72 points each, King and Robinson tied for 16th place while Steinbrenner managed to post an 18th palace finish with 70 points. The tourney was also pleased to welcome Strawberry Crest as the young Chargers who finished in 25th place.

Durant kept the momentum going as it hosted and dominated a six-way dual a week later featuring Bloomingdale, Chamberlain, Plant, Sickles and Tampa Bay Tech.

The Cougars also continue to feature senior and twice state qualifier Keith Watford, as well as the varsity team’s only freshman Ryan McDonald, who is already proving to be a tough competitor currently stepping on the mat in the 113-pound weight class.

“Right now my focus is just to win as many matches as I can,” McDonald said.

For more information about the Cougars and other Hillsborough County schools athletics programs, please visit



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